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Health Tip: How Does an Epidural Work?

A painkiller that's commonly used during childbirth

(HealthDay News) -- An epidural analgesia, commonly called an epidural, is a method of pain relief often used during childbirth.

According to the Childbirth Connection, an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist will first sterilize an area of the back. A needle is then inserted into the epidural area between the spinal cord and the membrane that protects it. Then, a catheter is inserted and the needle removed.

The catheter will allow a numbing anesthetic, sometimes narcotic, into the spine and prevent the woman from feeling pain during childbirth. The anesthetic is typically administered regularly by an automated pump.

The epidural may reduce the woman's ability to push, which may prolong childbirth.

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